LETTERS: Comet March 28
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THE letters in the Comet on Thursday, March 28.
SIR - New housing on green fields around Baldock.
It is a shame that the housing proposals for Baldock include building houses on farmland where crops are being grown, which helps to absorb carbon emissions, and reduces the necessity to import these crops from overseas by polluting ships.
The current infrastructure around Baldock has limitations. Schools, doctors, water supplies and sewage works will all need enhancing for the new houses. The roads around Baldock will also need upgrading, to allow residents from the new houses to drive to work and the shops.
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Baldock station may need additional trains for commuters. Morning trains are already standing room only at rush hour times. Parking around the station is limited. Local residential roads and streets are currently used for overflow parking.
This can only get worse when the new residents choose to drive to the station.
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For the proposed houses on green fields north of the station, the North Road railway bridge is low and has narrow footpaths.
Pedestrians, including wheelchair users, mothers with prams and young children walking to schools and shops to the south of the station, have to use these narrow footpaths, inches away from speeding cars and lorries. Additional pedestrian footfall will only increase the likelihood of pedestrian /vehicle collisions. There are already regular occurrences of high lorries hitting the low bridge, causing traffic and train delays while the damage is inspected.
For these reasons I believe the additional housing plans for Baldock should be reviewed and kept to brown field sites where possible.
Sir - They snooze while we lose.
Labour’s pathetic attempt to campaign against the Bedroom Tax, reported in last week’s Comet, is the latest example of Labour’s inability to protect the poorest residents of Stevenage.
This Labour council has passed on government attacks without even putting up a fight. They are as responsible as the ConDem government is for the highest child poverty in Hertfordshire.
Holding stunts in the town centre will not stop the rise in poverty. They could have reclassified all council housing stock so that only rooms slept in are bedrooms, as some housing associations in the North West have done; hardly revolutionary. Brighton and other councils have also stated that no one will be evicted for rent arrears because tenants can’t afford the Bedroom Tax. Will Stevenage do the same?
After 42 years of continuous Labour councils we still have 32 per cent child poverty in Bedwell, as reported in the Comet; and this will rise, as not only the bedroom tax but also cuts in council tax benefit and higher than inflation rent rises. An income of £71 used to mean a full rent and council tax rebate, now people will have only £55 to live on or even less with two bedrooms deemed as not being used. The Labour Party was built by councillors who were prepared to go to jail because they refused to meekly pass on government attacks. With the slogan of “Better to break the law than break the poor” Poplar Labour council forced the government to make the rich outer boroughs support the poorer inner London boroughs.
Stevenage councillors appear to be more interested in protecting their allowances than protecting the working poor. However in the forthcoming county council elections there is an alternative. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates promise to fight all the cuts and are prepared to put themselves between the ConDem Government and the people of Stevenage.
SIR - We should indeed be concerned about the large numbers of houses being proposed for the area surrounding Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock and Stevenage. Not just that they will be a huge intrusion, will change the character of the area and place a massive burden on an already overstretched infrastructure. But rather the plans have been placed barefaced before us for ‘consultation’ (a sham and weasel word if ever there is one) without so much as as blink of NHDC’s collective eye as to the complete nonsense that it is. Perhaps the outcry will be such that the plans will be modified to ‘only’ 7,000 houses and we will be so relieved and accept?
That, for example, 780 additional houses can be proposed to swamp Little Wymondley completely. Some of which will be on what is now our playing field. And of greater concern, lie under high-voltage transmission lines. No thought about that, apparently in the plan. Or that a massive development marching almost to Preston can be put forward without any thought as to the consequences, is arrogance personified. NHDC councillors are elected only to represent the interests of the local citizenry. Council officials, whose salaries and pension contributions we pay, exist to do councillors’ bidding on our behalf. It is not for us to meekly accept their diktats.
These plans demonstrate that this is manifestly not the case. Quite the reverse. NHDC will claim the ‘second-hand car salesman’s’ excuse that they can only do a deal on what the boss in the back office says. I.e. the dictates of a Government, which seems to think that building 100,000’s of thousands of houses on Green Belt land using borrowed money will cure our economic problems. Before the election, the Tories promised to scrap both Labour’s wasteful Quangos and their plans for over-development of East Anglia. Some of us voted for that and now we are betrayed. And we certainly didn’t vote for homosexual ‘marriage’.
Labour hates the countryside. It is full of Tories, so quite understandably wishes to cover it with houses filled with Labour voters. Councillor Taylor of Stevenage would surely agree. Many of whom are recently-arrived to our shores needing homes thanks to a very lax Labour immigration policy. Tories wish to cover the Green Belt because it is to the benefit of their property-developing mates.
That the proposals do not stand up to a scintilla of close scrutiny appears to be of no consequence. Proposing to place a new ‘village’ on a piece of highly-contaminated ground which has been a vehicle scrap yard for 80-odd years and lies directly under the flight path of a soon-to-be-greatly expanded Luton Airport also shows that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
It is impossible to fathom the collective thought processes of a council which can see nothing untoward in not doing its utmost to get a proper bypass for Hitchin instead of being content with the shambling apology of the one through Priory Park. Not fit for purpose which it was built 30-odd years ago and now giving rise to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide for those living nearby. Instead of which, it spent a great deal of our money of a deeply-flawed re-development plan with Simon. Now thankfully but far too belatedly, dead.
And these proposals will mean much, much more traffic on local roads and lane ‘rat-runs’. Never enough money for infrastructure. The Sunday Times rates Hitchin as the ninth best town in the UK in which to live. Well, if these mad plans come to fruition (big ‘if’ given the state of the UK’s economy) it wont even be the 99th best place in which to live.
Time to cash in one’s savings before Osborne does a ‘Cyprus’ to them and steal away to saner climes? My daughter lives in Sweden. That looks good. Some democracy still exists there. Little in Britain.
SIR - The average UK household’s annual food bill was over £100 higher in 2012 than in 2011, putting a strain on overstretched household budgets. In poorer countries, where people often spend most of their incomes on food, price rises have an even greater impact, forcing millions to go hungry.
One of the reasons prices have been rising so rapidly is that banks and hedge funds are pouring millions of pounds of speculative money into food futures markets, pushing prices beyond the levels dictated by supply and demand.
Access to food is a basic human right, and banks should not be allowed to play havoc with food prices. New legislation to limit food speculation is on the table at the EU, but George Osborne and his Treasury colleagues have so far blocked tough controls. We must demand that our politicians put the needs of hungry people, at home and abroad, before the profits of investment banks.
Sir - Can I agree 100 per cent with the problems of parking on match days. But surely around the football ground they have no kerb parking, like we have in Bedwell? As stated the streets in Stevenage are not designed for so many cars parking but if I dare have the slightest bit of tyre on a kerb I get a fine (as I have found out twice). Maybe traffic wardens on their scooters can work a Saturday afternoon and sneak up on cars and ticket them. That surely would solve the problem of nuisance parking?
SIR - I felt I had to write in praise of the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage after spending a wonderful evening watching the Moscow Ballet perform Coppelia on Tuesday evening.
The performance was magical and was such good value. I would urge anyone that hasn’t yet discovered this theatre, a jewel in the crown of Stevenage leisure facilities, to take a look at this year’s programme of events, there seems to be something to suit all ages and tastes. I think we are very lucky to have such a wonderful theatre on our doorstep and I’m off to book more tickets, I hope I’ve inspired others to do the same.
Mrs L Wenn
SIR - I saw Annie Get Your Gun on Saturday afternoon and thought that we are favoured to have such a good goup as the Hitchin Thespians. Gina Abbatt playing Annie was brilliant.
SIR - I would like to make a few comments on the letter in last week’s issue about Wilbury House, even though your correspondent chose to remain anonymous.
Of course the children have a right to stay in a residential area. Is Ripon Road not residential? And moreover, it is a lot nearer the facilities which the young people enjoy.
Despite what the neighbours had been told, the residential use was for children with emotional and behavioural problems. They were not well supervised, and the neighbours were subjected to frequent verbal abuse, various items were taken from the home and strewn around, and children were seen dancing on nearby garage roofs. Is it surprising the neigbours complained?
I am not sure how relevant it is to draw a comparison with a residential home for the elderly, where the residents can get to know their neighbours and join in local activities. Wilbury House is used for very short term respite stays, which involves constant coming and going for both children and staff.
In respect of Ms Byrne’s comment, what we are saying is that while cars are allowed to park on the road, parking just round a blind bend on a fast road is not a good idea. At least one car parked there has already been run into; not the best situation to deliver and collect children.
Letchworth Garden City
SIR - As mayor I would like to thank all those who took part in my charity concert at the Gordon Craig Theatre on Wednesday March 20.
It was a marvellous show with over 170 entertainers taking part. The participants must be congratulated on their outstanding performances. Their talent and enthusiasm was brilliant and all of the audience were thoroughly entertained. Well done everyone.
A special thanks to MBDA who sponsored the event also to Rebecca Hughes, Keith Baldwin, Stevenage Comet, Stevenage Has Got Talent judges, Stevenage Leisure Limited, all those working behind the scenes, and to everyone who filled the Gordon Craig Theatre that night. As you may know the charities I specifically support are Combat Stress, NSPCC North and East Hertfordshire Branch and the Royal British Legion Stevenage Branch, whilst we have not yet calculated the amount raised, each of the above groups will see the benefit.
It was a resounding success which the Mayoress Cllr Mrs Joan Lloyd and I will long remember.
Cllr John Lloyd CC
Mayor of Stevenage
Sir - What a delightful finish to the week.
A packed St Ippolyts church last Friday evening to see, hear and appreciate a wonderful musical experience given to us by Offley Primary School choir and then Rebecca Masters’ clarinet choir followed by the St Ippolyts singing group Shock-o-la.
The Offley school choir sang eight creations together with excellent music backing.
Then Rebecca’s young ladies group of clarinetists who played nine tunes which included a flute duet. This was followed by the Shock-o-la group with six offerings, dynamic leadership of this group and remarkably without music backinge.
At the leaving our local councillor Barbara Thomas and many helpers provided and served drinks and tasty bites. A great evening discovering wonderful local talent on our doorsteps.
Sir - I read with increasing anger in last Thursday’s Comet the letter from Jackie McDonald titled “Tax Mess” and the article on page nine “Protesters won’t take bedroom tax lying down”.
I am sick to the back teeth of the current one sided media coverage of this topic. The reality is that there are thousands of rent paying young families in this area with two or three children, living in one bedroom council properties that would be more than happy to change places with the individuals occupying two and three bedroom properties on their own. The myth that there is nowhere for them to downsize to is a complete lie.
My own children have been waiting for years for a possible opportunity with no success. Suddenly they seem to be receiving lots of interest from single males occupying three bedroom properties. Their only real interest being to preserve their benefits, not assist a young family. One of them I understand was on disability benefit as well, yet was planning to cycle round to view five properties that day!
It’s about time concerned Labour councillors had a bit of concern for hard working young families as well, that have spent their life here. The reality is that the same party opened the floodgates to unknown numbers of non contributing migrants, who now occupy up to 10 per cent of council housing stock. No doubt in the assumption that they would vote Labour out of gratitude.
SIR - I note that the parish precept for Stotfold 2013/2014 has been increased by some 34.9 per cent over the current year.
The main reason for this increase is reported to be the loss of revenue, to the council following the formation of a parish council for Fairfield Park.
This only goes to substantiate the claim by the residents of Fairfield Park that they were in fact subsidising the excesses of Stotfold Council’s budget
Quite how Stotfold Town Council can substantiate this increase, when councils and Government are trying to rein-in spending beggars belief.
Perhaps it’s time to time to adopt the old adage; ‘Cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth.’
SIR – The proposed 20mph speed limit in Hitchin is a useful reminder of road safety issues in the town. One particular area needing urgent attention is Wymondley Road, where many primary school children have to cross the road in the morning and evening rush hours. There is a real risk of an accident owing to the speed and density of the traffic, despite the numerous signs advising caution from drivers. It is a long highway with dangerous blind corners, and yet there is only one zebra crossing, at the very top near the Girl’s School. An online petition has been set up to pressure the council into installing a zebra crossing, and I would be very grateful if readers could sign it: www.change.org/petitions/herts-county-council-install-a-zebra-crossing-on-wymondley-road
SIR - I would like to know if anyone else knows why we have a sudden need for the huge electronic traffic information signs which are appearing on our roads.
I have not seen any of them actually showing any information so far and I suspect that the only info they will show is ‘You are about to join the same tailback to join every school run day’.
With most of our roads about as smooth as an off-road rally stage, I think a simple sign on a pole would tell us of hold-ups ahead then maybe there would be some cash left over to fix the damn potholes.
MR A HARRIS